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Out of a jam: the post-Covid push to reclaim streets from cars

With pop-up pedestrian zones and new cycle ways appearing in many parts of the country during lockdown, John Meagher reports on how the pandemic has shifted focus away from our dependence on the car

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New project: Robert Burns from Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council cycling on the Coastal Mobility Route. Photo by Gerry Mooney

New project: Robert Burns from Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council cycling on the Coastal Mobility Route. Photo by Gerry Mooney

People-friendly streets: Karl Purdy of Coffeeangel helped to have parking removed from South Anne Street in Dublin. Photo by Al Huggins

People-friendly streets: Karl Purdy of Coffeeangel helped to have parking removed from South Anne Street in Dublin. Photo by Al Huggins

Vision: The recently pedestrianised Princes Street in Cork. Photo courtesy of Flintlock Chevalier/Twitter

Vision: The recently pedestrianised Princes Street in Cork. Photo courtesy of Flintlock Chevalier/Twitter

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New project: Robert Burns from Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council cycling on the Coastal Mobility Route. Photo by Gerry Mooney

For Claire Nash, it was a solution that was literally right in front of her. When she had to shut her restaurant, Nash 19, under the coronavirus lockdown and realised that social distancing would threaten the viability of the business once she reopened, she had to use everything at her disposal. Princes Street - the short thoroughfare in Cork city centre where her restaurant is located - was her trump card.

Together with a Princes Street publican and a fellow restaurateur, she proposed to Cork City Council that the street be given over to tables and chairs. "There was a lot of work to do," she says. "But the council got on board with it."

When Nash 19, Clancy's pub and all the other cafés, bars and restaurants got to resume business at the end of last month, the crowds came flocking to the street - and were more than happy to have their dinner in the middle of the road. "The atmosphere has been great," Nash says. "People can enjoy a meal out in the heart of the city and feel that they are socially distant too."